Despite the abrupt ending, the 2018 A3C Festival & Conference was an event not to be missed.
Hip-hop enthusiasts took over the streets of downtown Atlanta, Georgia for the 14th annual A3C Festival & Conference. Major draws included Wu-Tang Clan, Dipset, and Lil Wayne — who was performing for the first time since the release of Tha Carter V.
However, the festival was so much more than a hip-hop lover’s paradise.
The 5-day event, meant to educate and empower entrepreneurs and creatives shaping hip-hop culture, drew artists, producers, DJs, and managers from all over the country. The festival functioned as a space with unbarricaded access to opportunity building.
With the shake of a hand, there was the chance to exchange ideas with people such as Tom Silverman, founder of Tommy Boy Records, or Justin Boland, head of hip-hop and R&B programming at Pandora. While other music conferences and festivals can sometimes feel overly exclusive, A3C provided more of a hip-hop “summer camp” vibe, harnessing its purpose and skipping past pretension.
The week started off with panels and seminars featuring industry gatekeepers, such as Steve Stoute, RZA, Zaytoven, and Cole Bennett, founder of Lyrical Lemonade. Rooms at the Loudermilk Conference Center were packed with eager attendees ready to learn and network. Everyone from college students to Wu-Tang stans came armed with questions, business cards, and beats.
Standout sessions included a talk with the founding member of Wu-Tang, RZA, where he dropped life gems, broke down the meaning behind some of his lyrics, as well as shared his vision for The Wu following this year’s 25th anniversary since the group’s inception. There was also a session with Ethiopia Habtemariam, the president of Motown Records, where she shared insights on her work and how she made it to her current position.
The festival featured programming for every sort of hip-hop connoisseur, from sessions with a focus on music tech to learning from an all-star cast of million dollar managers. There were even areas for producers and DJs to receive on the spot feedback on work at mentorship booths. And the festival’s impact didn’t remain contained in one venue, at night the city was brought to life with beat battles, playlist parties, and gave new talent the opportunity to introduce music on stage.
After three days of impactful programming, there was the music festival, which included a balanced lineup of living legends like Mannie Fresh, The Diplomats, Trina, Talib Kweli, and The Wu-Tang Clan. The festival also provided room for the underground king, Curren$y, and newcomers such as Saweetie, Yani Mo, and Atlanta’s own J.I.D. The festival took place at The Georgia Freight Depot, an outdoor venue, with sponsorship activation tents that included Swisher Sweets, The Labz, and Serato just to name a few. Festival-goers wore shirts bearing the names of slated performers, and songs between sets reminded the audience they were down south.
What was otherwise a lively festival, unfortunately, ended abruptly in the middle of Lil Wayne’s set, after someone reportedly yelled that they heard gunshots. This caused people at the event to attempt to flee the location. After the show ended, Lil Wayne tweeted:
Hope everyone at A3C is safe!! 🙏🏽
— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) October 8, 2018
What happened during Lil Wayne’s performance should not and cannot define the truly special week that took place in Atlanta. It’s not fair to Atlanta, hip-hop culture, or everyone involved. Media outlets enjoy capitalizing on viral moments, but the chaos during Lil Wayne’s performance should not be used to define A3C. Despite the festival’s unexpected ending, it’s easily one of the most productive opportunities to network, build, and create that next opportunity in the hip-hop industry.
Check out more pics from the festival below
Priscilla Ward is a celebrated writer whose work has been featured on Essence, Salon and is also the creator of #BLCKNLIT. You can find her tweeting about bell hooks, sandwiches and art shows @MacaroniFRO.